August 27, 2010

Boys and their water animals.

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From the base of a fountain in downtown Cincinnati.

42 comments:

Palladian said...

When you posted the photograph of "The Genius of Water" fountain the other day, I was hoping you'd photographed these as well. They're among my favorite sculptures in America. We've forgotten how to achieve both respectability and eroticism in the same work of art. It's now either tiresomely "transgressive" or prudishly sentimental. There's no multi-valence.

Everything today, I suppose, is similarly polarized.

Palladian said...

Of course my own brand of multivalence can beautify your life for a meagre sum.

dbp said...

I was going to comment a cheeky "Subtle Alhouse", but Palladian's comment set me straight. So to speak.

edutcher said...

There was a time in this country when the people in the public trust actually did some things that enriched the experience of just living.

We need that back.

lewsar said...

@edutcher: unfortunately, if you compare the schlock that passes as for art in the denver airport with the cincinnati fountains, denver comes off very poorly. what a waste of public money that was (the "art", not the airport).

ricpic said...

Say what you will about these sculptures (and yes, we get the mild comical hypocrisy) they can be loved. And I'll bet some Cincinnatians do love them. Can the same be said of a Richard Serra hunk of rusted metal, or a Claes Oldenburg giant eraser, or some huge idiot "biomorphic" form by Henry Moore, or any of the other caca that fills our public spaces, or rather empties them?

deborah said...

Palladian
//We've forgotten how to achieve both respectability and eroticism in the same work of art.//

But...

T 0 3 1 A 5 said...

Here's one of my favorites in my own city of fountains, Kansas City.

It's sort of a mind-bender too: is the boy urinating on the frog, or is the frog spitting on the boy. Either way, it's devious.

Palladian said...

But ricpic, people love Oldenburg's sculptures. Perhaps they're not enduring masterpieces, but comparing them to Richard Serra's sculpture in terms of public beloved-ness and effect on the public site isn't fair.

Of course, I'd much rather live with Serra's killer rusty hulks than his more recent work. Embarrassing!

And Henry Moore's work is beautiful. If you're going to trash bad public art, pick more universal targets, such as Joel Shapiro or Beverly Pepper or Jenny Holzer.

ricpic said...

The sacrosanct Henry Moore is immensely overrated, IMO.

But we'll just have to agree to disagree about him.

Jason (the commenter) said...

edutcher: There was a time in this country when the people in the public trust actually did some things that enriched the experience of just living.

We need that back.

I think that's backwards. There's a huge art movement going on in Asia. What they do with their buildings is fantastic. They don't even have street lights, the advertising lights up the streets with the flashing glow of neon. It is one of the most beautiful and beguiling things I have ever seen.

Screw the city fathers I say, let capitalism run riot in the streets of America.

Palladian said...

And if you want "transgressive", keep in mind that these lovely lads with their spurting crotch creatures were intended as drinking fountains.

Do you swallow?

Palladian said...

" The sacrosanct Henry Moore is immensely overrated, IMO.

But we'll just have to agree to disagree about him."

Agreed. In terms of what I like to call "actively, offensively bad", Moore just seems to rate below a lot of others.

I do think your comment touches upon an important point: no art should ever be considered sacrosanct, or above any sort of criticism. Without the critical capacity of the informed, inquisitive mind, it's all just artifacts of the past.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Cities should look like this and this and this. It's vibrant art that changes and competes, not art that belongs in a museum or is cold and sterile like the modern art they put in American cities now-a-days.

Palladian said...

"They don't even have street lights, the advertising lights up the streets with the flashing glow of neon. It is one of the most beautiful and beguiling things I have ever seen."

Using modern, urban Asia as an example to be followed in terms of beauty and the arrangement of cities is criminally misguided.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Palladian: Using modern, urban Asia as an example to be followed in terms of beauty and the arrangement of cities is criminally misguided.

Sure, they've taken down all sorts of beautiful ruins, but the the mass of art they have put up in its place is just as amazing. What do we have to look at anyway? Big boxes for buildings. That's what's in the background of Althouse's pictures. How stupid and ugly is that! And wasteful to boot.

Too many jims said...

If the pics were in B&W they would be more Mapplethorpe-ish.

deborah said...

Devious, delightful Althouse, saving this for a quiet Friday evening.

Palladian said...

Cities should look like this and this and this.

deborah said...

Delightful, delovely, dewonderful..

Son of Brock Landers said...

If you go to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianpolis' center circle, you can see some chained, S&M bears.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Palladian: Cities should look like this and this and this.

Oh, please! Yes, those cities look nice, but they have no relation to how people live today. They are museum pieces, to be preserved where they are found, but not built.

The problem with American cities is we want them to look all "pretty" so we fight advertising (free art), like signs and billboards. But we let people build god-damned boxes everywhere, which only look good if they are covered in advertising.

Advertising is THE modern art movement and we are practically dead to it. We are regressive, boring, and worn out.

Jason (the commenter) said...

We are regressive, boring, and worn out.

And this comes from someone who likes to flip through old books every day.

jr565 said...

This is like some japanimation where all of the heroes are demons and have phallics made of slithering snakes and all involve rape fantasies where the female hero gets raped by the demon with the snake penis.

Probably means I watched too much japanimation as a youngster, but it immediately looked like a kid pissing into the fountain with his snake penis. Took a second to see the turtle below.
And what is the deal with the Japanese cartoons that deal with rape fantasies with demons having sex with the hero of the story with a penis that turns into a giant snake or tentacle? That type of image is as ubiquitous in Japanimation as a Looney Tunes cartoon that has Bugs Bunny asking "What's up doc?".Those Japanese are some sick puppies.

Palladian said...

Oh Jason, we all love it when you try to be transgressive.

It's amusing to me that you rage about as if the vulgarity that you treasure wasn't already victorious. If you seek noise, crassness, vulgarity and ugliness, go to almost any modern city and look about you.

(With apologies to the state of Michigan for defiling their motto)

To speak of the world needing to reflect "how people live today" assumes that the way people live today is good. That's the same as assuming that, because Barack Obama was elected, he must be a good president, and every president should be just like him.

Art isn't democratic, to paraphrase the otherwise execrable Richard Serra.

Palladian said...

As for "how people live", the parts of almost any city that I've ever been to that look like Jason's ideal do not reflect how the residents of those cities live today. Take Times Square for instance: nothing about Times Square is reflective of how the majority of New Yorkers live. Times Square is a fantasy for outsiders.

edutcher said...

lewsar said...
@edutcher: unfortunately, if you compare the schlock that passes as for art in the denver airport with the cincinnati fountains, denver comes off very poorly. what a waste of public money that was (the "art", not the airport).

I said Denver??? When??? Where???

Jason (the commenter) said...

edutcher: There was a time in this country when the people in the public trust actually did some things that enriched the experience of just living.

We need that back.


I think that's backwards. There's a huge art movement going on in Asia. What they do with their buildings is fantastic. They don't even have street lights, the advertising lights up the streets with the flashing glow of neon. It is one of the most beautiful and beguiling things I have ever seen.

Screw the city fathers I say, let capitalism run riot in the streets of America.


I think we did public art at a time when capitalism was allowed to have free expression.

ricpic said...

It's true that art isn't democratic, but shouldn't art at least nod in the direction of the demos when it comes to art in public spaces?

This pretty much knocks out almost all modernist art as appropriate to public space. Why? Because modernist art is first and foremost iconoclastic. Not polite. And square as this may sound, polite, not transgressive, is what (minimally) art in public space must be.

For a long time I've thought that Brancusi's Bird In Space might work well placed in a public space. Of course great care would have to be taken as to the material used, the base and the degree of enlargement. But it might work, and in fact become an instant classic and beloved by the public...because Brancusi was only superficially a modern. At a much deeper level he was as one with the peasantry he sprang from. And that comes through in his deeply conservative work.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Palladian: It's amusing to me that you rage about as if the vulgarity that you treasure wasn't already victorious. If you seek noise, crassness, vulgarity and ugliness, go to almost any modern city and look about you.

As if the Romans and Greeks didn't paint their buildings and sculptures the most garish colors imaginable. You have no idea what you are talking about. Our cities are as quiet as door-mice compared to what I saw in China, compared to what could have been seen in Athens.

You look at something like this and call it vulgar. But instead of reading the huge Mary Kay sign (a lovely pink), I also look at how the neon lights accent the building's architecture and how the classically sculpted bronze horses are silhouetted against everything.

I have to wonder what kind of person can't enjoy color and light, shadows and darkness; can't enjoy the fruits of today, because they're longing so hard for the fruits of a hundred seasons past.

Jason (the commenter) said...

ricpic: And square as this may sound, polite, not transgressive, is what (minimally) art in public space must be.

I don't understand how we as Americans can discuss art in public spaces since we practically don't have any. I mean who are we to talk about it? Most of the stuff we do have only looks interesting because we keep people from expressing themselves in the spaces around it. We have blank wall after blank wall after blank wall. The American art scene is about repressing art, not creating or displaying it.

ricpic said...

Jason, don't be an all or nothing guy. Why can't we have miles and miles of blank walls and the occasional isolated bit of green with Bird In Space soaring out of the trees? ;^)

Palladian said...

Because that's not how people live today, ricpic!

Jason (the commenter) said...

Be nice Palladian. I brought backup.

jaed said...

The American art scene is about repressing art, not creating or displaying it.

In the city where I live, there's an ordinance against murals on buildings. They actually forced people to paint over any artwork they had on their buildings. The reason given for passing this abomination was that it would be impossible to suppress advertising without also suppressing decorative art (true, because the state constitution's free-expression guarantees prevent doing one without doing the other on the basis of content). The mayor and city council, apparently, thought forbidding public art that was not government-sponsored a small price to pay for getting rid of some advertising. So, so vulgar, you know.

The result of this mentality is that you go into any downtown and see nothing but gray concrete cubes, surrounded by light gray sidewalks and dark gray streets. Discreet signs are permitted, and the occasional window display may break up the monotony, but other than that, only functional decorations such as traffic signs are permitted. It is all too dreary for words. (Palladian, imagine a Renaissance city where ornament, nonfunctional columns, and non-flat rooflines were forbidden by law.)

It's the nature of art that there's a lot of dreck. The dreck dies or gets painted over and the good art survives; thus a city evolves toward beauty. Prevent any art from being made - other than the occasional piece of patronage art, which mostly should have sneer quotes around the word - and the city stays in a stasis of ugliness.

People naturally want to make their surroundings more beautiful. Our cities actively prevent this.

traditionalguy said...

Displaying art in the public square takes a bold and confident culture that permits a point of view. Political Correctness taught as an education rather than teaching the Scottish Enlightenment courses has killed art. We have hidden art out of fear.

Jason (the commenter) said...

traditionalguy: We have hidden art out of fear.

The art isn't just hidden, it's been banned. And I would say we do it out of priggishness not fear. The people who pass these regulations feel a sense of superiority in enacting them.

Priggery is an American disease and it's easy to see the type of damage it has done when you visit other countries.

virgil xenophon said...

Following in the vein of Jason and Traditionalguy's colloquy about art and color in public spaces I would note that one of the enduring charms of places like New Orleans, SF, Miami.Southbeach and the Venice/Marina del Rey/Santa Monica area (hell, throw parts of Culver City in as well) is the relative riot of color used in both residential single-family homes and commercial bldgs compared to the rest of America. What's so amusing is to hear tourists--who visit these places in large part to escape the relatively drabness of their own environments--say: "Oh, that's really strikingly beautiful--but of course I would/could never paint MY home that color!"

knox said...

Priggery is an American disease and it's easy to see the type of damage it has done when you visit other countries.

Oh, posh. Political Correctness is a much more powerful, negative force in America than "priggishness" or "prudishness" or any of those other things people like to say about the US.

Good lord, sex is everywhere, but PC silences nearly everything that's potentially meaningful or productive in our public discourse, in our artwork, advertising, or anything else.

downtownlad said...

So Palladian thinks that Asia, Africa, and the Middle East should be forced to have European cities - even though those places have an entirely different cultural heritage.

Not really surprised that wingnuts are now clamoring for a new age of Western imperialism.

Enjoy your polyester convention in D.C. today.

jaed said...

Oh, shut up, downtownlad.

Political Correctness is a much more powerful, negative force in America than "priggishness" or "prudishness"

Political correctness *is* priggishness. Don't let the fact that it's not about sex fool you. The terror of social opprobrium, is that not priggish? The way the nose rises into the air and the tone goes all patronizing when someone utters an out-of-date reference such as "handicapped" or "Oriental", is that not priggish? The way people radiate anxiety, isn't that an outgrowth of priggishness? "Priggish" is precisely what political correctness is. It's the quality that makes it at once so silly and so offensive.

Laika's Last Woof said...

Admit it: you're trolling for Titus, aren't you?

Laika's Last Woof said...

(comment was directed at OP, not the thread conversation)